All the Face Washes That Do and Don't Work for Acne, According to Experts


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If you’re anything like Brittney Powell, a skincare blogger at The Blushing Bliss, you’ve tried many different face washes for your acne to no avail. You have to wash your face, but how do you find something that doesn’t dry it out, that doesn’t make your acne worse, or cost an arm and a leg?

“Previous cleansers I’ve tried that didn’t work [include] Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash, Murad Acne Cleanser, Cetaphil, Cerave, Kate Sommerville Eradikate Cleanser, Clean & Clear Triple Clear, and Clean & Clear Continuous Control,” Powell tells me.

“Depending on how specific you break it down, there are either 4 types of skin or up to 16 (made popular by Dr. Leslie Baumann, a trusted Derm in the space), but at the end of the day, I’m a believer in 4 types: dry, oily, combination, or normal skin,” says Todd Minars, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology, University of Miami School of Medicine. “One thing to keep in mind is that there are A LOT of skin types and some of them do require different approaches, which is why I like to recommend acne suffers at least consult with a board-certified dermatologist.”

At the end of the day, there will be some trial and error, but luckily you have some budget-friendly options to consider before heading over to the more expensive side of skincare.

Clean & Clear Acne Wash | $20 | Amazon

“One of my favorites that I use, whenever I’ve lost control of a breakout, is the Clean & Clear acne wash. It has a 2% dose of salicylic acid which after about a week of day and night use keeps the pimples and grease at bay,” says Rhea Henry, a content strategist with Rank-It.ca

“However,” Henry continues, “it is a bit harsh when I’m not having an active breakout so I find I generally don’t use it as often outside of summer when I tend to have most of my breakouts; I just follow it up with the matching oil-control moisturizer if I find that my face feels a little dry.”

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle | $8 | Amazon

Illustration for article titled All the Face Washes That Do and Dont Work for Acne, According to Experts
Image: Neutrogena

Powell has active acne outbreaks and has tried a number of different cleansers over the years, spending time and money but not finding the right one for her. She says, “I have found that the best cleansers for acne are very gentle and mild cleansers, verses something harsh and drying like many traditional acne cleansers are. This is because traditional acne cleansers have harsh ingredients like sulfates, menthol, and alcohol that dry out and irritate the skin leading to acne and breakouts.”

Once she switched to gentler cleaners, her skin cleared up. One of her top two favorites is Neutrogena Ultra Gentle in both the foaming and creamy formulas.

“The foaming formula being better for those with oilier skin types, but both are super gentle and hydrating without stripping your skin or leaving a gross film of moisture,” Powell elaborates.

What Does the Dermatologist Recommend?

Illustration for article titled All the Face Washes That Do and Dont Work for Acne, According to Experts
Image: Cetaphil

“My go-to recommendations for nearly all patients looking to improve the appearance of their skin or help control acne are Cetaphil, Ceravem, and Vanicream (the original versions for each brand),” Dr. Minars tells me.

Dr. Minars explains that these products are non-drying, and since dryness contributes to skin issues, that’s a big benefit. There are also no dyes or fragrances. “Having your products free from colors and fragrances are particularly important for those patients with sensitive skin types, as those elements can irritate and flare up their issues.”

Here’s What Else You Should Know

Illustration for article titled All the Face Washes That Do and Dont Work for Acne, According to Experts
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“It’s interesting to mention, as I’ve had patients declare they have sensitive skin, and the reality is that they’re having sensitivity issues because they’re overwhelming their systems with wrong products or too aggressive regiment,” Dr. Minars cautions. “Be mindful of overwashing your face, as it can be irritating and actually create a sort of negative feedback loop that strips your face of natural oils.”

You also do not need to wash your face more any once a day, says Dr. Minars. “I suggest that patients do not need to perform anything special in the mornings outside of their normal routine. If you have very specific issues that require attention in the morning you’re fine to proceed, but by and large, I see more benefits when patients wash upon their return home each day.”

When it comes to products that are designed to offer a “deep clean” like the Luna, “I wouldn’t recommend using it daily, as your face doesn’t need that level of frequency with such a device. I’ve had a patient who irritated their skin far more than they would have without using one at all,” Dr. Minars explains, “Now don’t get me wrong, they can be great for many of us, just be mindful and limit your sessions to two times per week.”